Housing 4.0: Designing a home for all Malaysians
16 Apr 2019 | The Edge

Over the years, demand for homes has grown, along with affordability concerns. With the aim of being part of the conversation and ultimately helping to alleviate the situation, Persatuan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) and Gamuda Industrial Building Systems Sdn Bhd (Gamuda IBS) have teamed up to organise a design competition called Housing 4.0.

The competition is open to PAM members, who can also form teams that include non-members. The competition starts on April 16. Participants will use Building Information Modelling (BIM) to design an entire high-rise development within an urban setting that will contain individual units, commercial components and amenities. A detailed competition brief will be given to each participant or team.

Housing 4.0 is headed by architect and PAM council member Ang Chee Cheong and Gamuda IBS general manager Tan Ek Khai. They say the design competition is aimed at exposing the construction industry and designers to the benefits of using BIM and the digital Industrialised Building System (IBS) ecosystem. Ang says the collaboration came about because they saw a lack of discussion between the government and property developers with architects and end users.

“We thought this would be a good opportunity for PAM to tie up with a leading technology player (Gamuda IBS) and see what we can develop to address the national housing issue,” says Ang.

Tan explains that Gamuda IBS has been in business for only three years but has developed a digital IBS ecosystem that it is ready to share with others. “Architects are what we call the brains of the building; we [Gamuda IBS] are the limbs and panels that form the structure of the building. We bring [to the table] technology and building solutions as well as our experience as the nation’s top contractor and property developer,” says Tan.

The men believe that by providing exposure and support to the industry, more conversations can be held and positive changes can be made.

“Digital IBS has not been fully exploited and harnessed yet,” explains Ang. “We are using this collaboration to introduce digital IBS to our members and guide them with a project that develops different housing options. I think this is quite exciting and we are looking forward to the outcome [of the contest].”

Tan says while the industry might be aware of new technology, there is no integration between the design and the actual product, simply because the technology is not seen through from beginning to end. However, with the use of BIM and digital IBS, this can be realised. Another advantage is the reduction of foreign labour.

“But all of this starts with the design and the design starts with the architect,” Ang says. “So we hope we will be able to help people understand and have a wider acceptance of the use of BIM and digital IBS.”

Beyond the competition

According to Ang and Tan, the design is for a mass housing residential project that can be easily replicated. While most architects would rather design an iconic building, Ang believes this mindset needs to be changed. “I think mass housing has a stigma to it and we’re determined to break that. We think a house should be sexy. It should be luxurious. I mean, it doesn’t have to have Italian marble but it should be spacious, full of light and have good ventilation. And everything should be well thought through and have good facilities. That is why we call it luxury housing for the masses at an affordable price,” Ang says.

The competition provides a platform for both experienced and inexperienced proponents of property development to engage with each other.

The teams may comprise people with different expertise. So companies or firms can participate with students. Those studying architecture, engineering or interior design could form a team. “The contest is open to people who have an interest in housing,” says Ang. “The team leader has to be a PAM member. We encourage cross-disciplinary approaches. The teams should have builders, costing guys, engineers, maybe artists and so on. That will enable them to come up with a better product.”

But more than that, he believes the submissions will generate discussion on how houses should be designed and what should be in a housing estate or neighbourhood.

Another component of the House 4.0 competition is innovation workshops that will allow participants to discuss BIM, digital IBS and tour Gamuda IBS’ factory. This is to expose more people to the benefits and advantages of using IBS.

While the winning design may not be built, it is hoped that industry players will be interested to see what IBS can do to help the government meet its “annual 100,000 house target” in the next 10 years.

“As for PAM, we are trying to encourage our members to adopt more digital disruption and to have a more modern practice,” says Ang. “We see that we [PAM and Gamuda IBS] are working in many of the same areas. Gamuda IBS also has a BIM academy like us, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to look for areas in which we can collaborate.

“I think there are many areas that we are aligned on. I think there will be a tighter collaboration to spearhead a digital partnership because it will give us mutual benefits. We get to assist each other to achieve our goals and objectives,” he says.

“For a start, we’d like to see how this collaboration goes and how it is propagated. If there is interest, then obviously, we would like to do more,” says Tan. “And we also are very engaged with industry players. This is a platform where views can be exchanged. Improvements can then be made to the nation’s property sector in many ways.”